Those trying to become self-sufficient or prepare for trying times are taking a serious look at pressure canning foods just as our grandmothers did. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t involved in canning food whether it was picking in the garden, breaking beans, shelling peas or washing jars. Mother seemed acutely aware that as a child my hands fit nicely inside the jars to scrub them.
Meats are often the most daunting for the novice canner, however, as advised during the early 20th century, “…the meat can be safely canned by any one whether new at the canning game or a veteran in it if directions are carefully followed.”. The author went on to say that the fear of getting botulinus bacteria from eating canned meat was just a, “bug-a-boo”, as long as one followed a strict cleanliness regimen, used fresh products, and adhered to the instructions. Making sure there aren’t any chips to prevent a proper seal on the jars is also important. Such jars are still good for storing anything that doesn’t have to be sealed such as salt or sugar.
My mother never had the best of luck canning products with meat and I was too young then to be able to evaluate the reasons why. She kept a clean kitchen so that wasn’t the problem and the products were fresh enough. My best guess is she didn’t process the jars long enough, or didn’t leave enough head space when she filled them. She tried to can chicken and dumplings and lost every jar. I’m pretty sure the dumplings plumped too much during processing resulting in the jars being too full to seal properly and absorbed too much of the liquid in the jar for the contents to reach a boil. The jars probably didn’t get hot enough to seal properly if that happened.
I’ve canned chicken, ham, and beef as well as various soups (such as bean with ham) and haven’t had a problem.
Both a cold pack and hot pack method was found in various books and magazines from the early 1900’s. The advantage to partially cooking the meat or browning it prior to canning is that it may look more appealing. I use the cold pack method most often. The home canner was instructed that any cuts not suitable for canning in solid chunks could be ground, made into sausage, and the fried sausage could then be canned.
Grace Gray (1920) included organ meats (sweetbreads, brains, kidneys, liver), liver sausage, head cheese, corned beef, etc. in her canning instructions along with solid meats (chicken, pigeon, pork, rabbit, beef, tongue, fish, oysters, clams, shrimp, crab, crawfish, etc.) Freezers weren’t yet used and farm families often canned pork and chicken to use throughout the year. She didn’t mention canning venison, but that works well.
Let’s look at a book from the WWII era, for more information. The author recommended canning meat separately from vegetables because it provided greater versatility than when made into soup before canning it. She advised adding seasonings (onion and garlic included) when the jars were opened for use for a fresher flavor and I tend to agree. Pressure canning sometimes concentrates those flavors to the point the flavor is somewhat off-putting. I do add a half teaspoon of kosher salt per pint of meat before processing it.
The home canner was counseled to use quarts or pints for canning meat and avoid using anything larger. I prefer pints because that is enough meat for whatever dish I want to prepare for two people and sometimes I still have left-overs for lunch the next day.
Cutting the meat into uniform sized pieces insures it cooks evenly. The 1942 book states cuts with more connective tissue than the rump, round, loin, and chuck could be canned as stew meat or hamburger. Those jars are ideal for casseroles, tacos, hash, etc. It still contained instructions for canning tongue, heart, etc. Meat from poultry was canned and the bony parts like rib meat, backs, necks, etc. were boiled to make broth to fill the jars of meat.
North Dakota State University told homemakers to can any extra stock and use it for making soup. Starting with stock instead of water makes a world of difference in flavor.
Chicken breast can be canned without adding liquid because enough liquid cooks out of the chicken as it is being processed, but I add water to everything else. When canning ham I fill the jars with water seasoned with a bit of salt and brown sugar. A Bulletin from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute noted that when using the cold pack method, all the juices and flavor stayed in the jar producing a more flavorful product.
When I cook with the jars of chicken, ham, or beef, I add a teaspoon of soup base to boost the flavor and pasta, dumplings, or vegetables. With canned beef I can whip up a fast spaghetti sauce, chili, taco salad, meat pie, stew, pot-roast in gravy, or casserole in no time, and without making a run to the market. Blissful Meals yall, enjoy this lovely day.©
Gray, Grace Viall. “Every Step in Canning”. 1920. Iowa State College Professor of Home Economics.
Stanley, Louise; Stienbarger, Mabel; and Shank, Dorothy. “Home Canning of Fruits, Vegetables and Meats”. Farmer’s Bulletin #1762. 1942.
Hughes, Mary B. “Every Woman’s Canning Book”. 1918
Virginia Polytechnic Institute. “Bulletin No. 66”, June 1921.